Common diamond scams you should be aware of

When it comes to diamonds, there are numerous scams to watch out for. Most scams are minor, but there are some major ones that come up from time to time concerning the buying and selling of diamonds.

Scams occur simply because most people who buy diamonds – for whatever reason – don’t know that much about diamonds. Therefore, they are easily fooled. Here are some of the more common scams:

The Artificial Lighting scam

Jewelry stores like to display their diamonds under bright lights. Lights make diamonds shine and appear to be of better quality than they actually are. Some lights have a strong blue component, which makes yellow-tinted stones look whiter. This also has a whitening effect for stones in the lower color ranges.

Useful tip: Ask to see the diamond in a different, darker type of lighting as well. If you are looking for a high-grade color, ask for a certificate from an independent lab, to verify the grade.

The ‘50% Off’ scam

Don’t fall for sales offers from retailers that promise you 50% savings. Stores have been known to mark up $100 jewelry to $500 and then offer ‘50% off’. When you think you are saving $250, you are actually being grossly overcharged. Liquidation and ‘going out of business’ sales also belong to this category.

Useful tip: Don’t fall for ‘sales’ offers from retail stores.

The ‘Carat Total Weight’ scam

A common scam that most jewelry stores participate in is the ‘ct TW’ (Carat Total Weight) scam. The tag on the piece of jewelry, usually a ring, only states the total carat weight of all diamonds in the piece, instead of listing the carat weights for each diamond separately.

This leads consumers to believe that the main diamond in the piece is actually bigger than it is. For instance, if you have one G/VS2 diamond weighing 1 carat, it might be worth about $5,500. But ten smaller G/VS2 diamonds with a total carat weight of 1 carat might only be worth about $1,800. That’s a sizeable difference in all ways!

Useful tip: Ask what the total carat weight of the center stone is and insist on getting it in writing.

The ‘Fraction’ scam

Also beware of fractions. Jewelry stores are allowed to round off diamond weights. This means that if the jeweler tells you that it is a 3/4 carat diamond, it is probably between .69 and .81 carat – but closer to 3/4 carat. In this case, you might be buying a .69 carat G/VS2 diamond, worth about $2,100, but paying for what you thought was a 0.75 carat worth $3,000.

Useful tip: Insist on getting the exact weight of the center stone or single stone.

The ‘Blue-White Diamond’ scam

Jewelry stores often run ‘fluorescence’ scams to varying degrees. Referring to a diamond as a blue-white diamond is one such scam. A blue-white diamond sounds very unique and special but, in fact, this type of diamond is of a lower quality – even though the jeweler will try to make you think you are getting something special. The term ‘blue-white’ refers to the fluorescence that results in natural light, which contains ultraviolet wavelengths. This blue fluorescence actually makes a colorless diamond look a little oily or milky in sunlight and decreases its value.

Useful tip: Insist on examining a ‘blue-white’ diamond in natural light and ask for a diamond certificate to verify its value.

The Lowball

Some truly unscrupulous jewelers target those who want appraisals on diamonds that were given to them as gifts or that were purchased elsewhere.

They will try to tell you that the diamond is worthless, or worth less than it actually is worth – and offer to take it off your hands or trade it for a much better diamond, along with the cash to make up the difference. This is called low-balling.

Useful tip: Use a truly independent appraiser who is not connected with any diamond seller. Get a second, third, and even a fourth opinion before taking any action.

The ‘Bait and Switch’

An old trick used by some stores is to advertise a diamond at a very attractive price. When you get there, you’re told that the diamond has been sold, and you are wheedled into buying something a lot more expensive.

Useful tip: If the advertised diamond is ‘out of stock’, walk away. Don’t get talked into buying anything else.

A variation of this scam is the old switcheroo - switching the diamond you have chosen and paid for with one of lesser quality and value when you leave it to be set in a piece of jewelry, or leave a diamond ring to be sized.

The only way to avoid this is to do business with one trustworthy jeweler. Avoid jewelers that you have not done business with in the past.

There are many more scams that jewelry stores commonly pull on unsuspecting consumers, such as hiding the flaws in a diamond under the prongs of a ring, chemical color coating, and fake certificates. Just use your best judgment, and purchase your diamonds with the utmost care and deliberation. And always, ALWAYS insist on a certificate from a reputed lab such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

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